Protests over Russian anti-gay law focus on Sochi

Activists around the world are calling for major sponsors to condemn the legislation
Associated Press
Feb 1, 2014

 

 Despite seven months of international outcry, Russia's law restricting gay-rights activity remains in place. Yet the eclectic protest campaign has heartened activists in Russia and caught the attention of its targets — including organizers and sponsors of the Sochi Olympics that open on Feb. 7.

Over the past two weeks, two major sponsors, Coca-Cola and McDonald's, have seen some of their Sochi-related social media campaigns commandeered by gay-rights supporters who want the companies to condemn the law. Several activists plan to travel to Sochi, hoping to team up with sympathetic athletes to protest the law while in the Olympic spotlight.

And on Friday, a coalition of 40 human-rights and gay-rights groups from the U.S., Western Europe and Russia — including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Campaign — released an open letter to the 10 biggest Olympic sponsors, urging them to denounce the law and run ads promoting equality for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.

"LGBT people must not be targeted with violence or deprived of their ability to advocate for their own equality," the letter said. "As all eyes turn toward Sochi, we ask you to stand with us."

The law, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in July, bans pro-gay "propaganda" that could be accessible to minors — a measure viewed by activists as forbidding almost any public expression of gay-rights sentiment. The law cleared parliament virtually unopposed and has extensive public support in Russia.

Since July, when they launched a boycott of Russian vodka, activists have pressed the International Olympic Committee and Olympic sponsors to call for the law's repeal. Instead, the IOC and top sponsors have expressed general opposition to discrimination and pledged to ensure that athletes, spectators and others gathering for the Games would not be affected by the law. Putin has given similar assurances in regard to Sochi, but remains committed to the law's broader purposes.

IOC President Thomas Bach has warned Olympic athletes that they are barred from political gestures while on medal podiums or in other official venues, but says they are free to make political statements at news conferences.

One Olympian likely to speak out is gay Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff, who told Australia's Courier-Mail newspaper that she plans to lambaste Putin.

"After I compete, I'm willing to rip on his ass," she told the newspaper. "I'm not happy and there's a bunch of other Olympians who are not happy either."

Brockhoff is one of several Olympians promising to display the logo P6 — a reference to Principle Six of the Olympic Charter that says any form of discrimination "is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement."

Hudson Taylor of Athlete Ally, an organizer of the P6 campaign, is among the activists going to Sochi. He hopes that some athletes, even if wary of wearing P6 symbols, will promote them via social media.

Also heading to Sochi is Shawn Gaylord, advocacy counsel for Human Rights First.

"We won't be looking to violate the law," he said. "But we think it's important that human rights not get lost in the mix."

President Barack Obama, who has criticized the Russian law, is skipping the Olympics and named a U.S. delegation that includes tennis great Billie Jean King and two other openly gay athletes.

"The only way you break down barriers is by being there and meeting people and getting these issues out on the table — doing it in an appropriate and diplomatic way," King told The Associated Press.

In the U.S., recent protest initiatives have focused on Sochi sponsors, notably Coca-Cola and McDonald's.

In McDonald's case, the company's #CheersToSochi Twitter hashtag has been used by activists in tweets condemning the Russian law and assailing McDonald's for not speaking out forcibly against it.

Similarly, activists made use of an online "I'd like to share a Coke with..." promotion to circulate images of Coke cans with labels such as "Gaybashers" and "Haters." The gay-rights group Queer Nation posted a video online interspersing images of embattled Russian gay-rights demonstrators into Coke's 1970s TV ad featuring the song, "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing."

Coke then posted a clip of the original ad on its Facebook page, drawing a flood of negative comments from gay-rights supporters. Coke has responded with declarations of support for diversity and inclusiveness, which are themes of Coke's new Super Bowl advertising.

A Coca-Cola spokeswoman, Ann Moore, said the company remained committed to the Olympics despite criticism from gay-rights activists.

"We share these groups' belief in human rights, equality, diversity and dignity for all, and we respect their right to protest peacefully," Moore said in an email. "We firmly believe, however, that supporting the Olympics focuses the world on the ideals that everyone strives for during the Games — excellence, friendship and respect."

Becca Hary, a McDonald's spokeswoman, made similar points.

"Social media is all about conversation. Understandably, the LGBT community is focusing its conversation on the Russian legislation," she said in an email. "McDonald's is proud to be a top sponsor of the Olympics; our sponsorship dollars literally help the men and women who are working to achieve their Olympic dreams."

Hary and Moore said their companies were conferring with the IOC about human rights.

"We expect our ongoing engagement to include discussions on long-term, sustainable means for addressing human rights in the context of the Olympic Games," Moore wrote.

Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, predicted that sponsors would henceforth insist that the IOC make human rights a more important factor in selection of host cities.

"There will be a reckoning after the Games," Worden said. "Olympic sponsorship is supposed to be the goose that lays the golden eggs, but this goose is not laying golden eggs. It's laying stinky, rotten eggs."

The international gay-rights group All Out plans to target Olympic sponsors in demonstrations next Wednesday in several cities, including New York, London, Rio de Janeiro and St. Petersburg, Russia. Even if the Russian law endures, All Out executive director Andrew Banks considers the overall protest campaign a success.

"We've been able to elevate the voices and stories of Russian LGBT people ... and show there are people all over the world willing to stand behind them," he said.

While expressing appreciation for the allies abroad, prominent Russian activist Anastasia Smirnova said she feared that "dangerous self-censorship" might deter some Olympians in Sochi from taking stands against the law. In an email Friday, she also worried about a possible backlash against Russian gays once the Olympic spotlight fades.

Comments

thinkagain's picture
thinkagain

More one-sided liberal media support of the intolerant, militant propaganda of those living immoral lifestyles.

44846GWP

Bigot.

From the Grave

Can't we all just get along for a couple of weeks of skiing, skating and sledding?

coasterfan

Is it just me, or has anyone else stopped to think that the anti-gay crowd who have inundated the SR with online rants are taking the same stance as the oppressive Russian government.

I propose that we start a fund-raising drive to buy them a one-way ticket to the Olympics. They can enjoy the event, then stay in Russia with other like-minded people who believe that denying equal rights is the correct thing to do.

The Big Dog's back

Putin is the right's new hero. I assuming a lot of the posters have someone who is gay in their family. They believe if it is outlawed, it will "go away".

Darwin's choice

I'll pay for yours, you belong there.

coasterfan

LOL. The only intolerant people I see are those who, like thinkagain, are unwillingly to Live and Let Live.

BabyMomma

Lol. Only a dumbass would think that we have any business putting our 2 cents in about what Russia does in Russia. We need to mind our own business. Let the people who LIVE there decide, we can't even keep our own country in order. This country is a nightmare, and it all starts with people like coasterfan.

The Big Dog's back

So people who think for themselves (coaster) create nightmares? Yep, we should be like the right with their Authoritarians.

Darwin's choice

Says the cheerleader, who follows coasterfan like the clingon you are.

BabyMomma

He's a hippie

Nemesis

Because leftists are NEVER authoritarian, right Dog?

What color is the sky in your world?

ladydye_5

I agree, our own country is such a cesspool right now, why DO we worry about what Russia is doing/not doing.

Nemesis

While we're on the subject of live and let live, please note that Russia is another country, on the other side of the world, and if they want to run their society differently from us, it's really none of our business.

BabyMomma

Of course Obama is skipping the Olympics, that would be too American of Him to support our athletes

The Big Dog's back

So you're all for footing the bill for what it would cost for security? Who knew?

Darwin's choice

The future savings we would enjoy would be worth it to leave him there.

ladydye_5

We foot the bill for him to go everywhere else....vacation, Africa for Mandela, ect, etc.

Peninsula Pundit

'Several activists plan to travel to Sochi, hoping to team up with sympathetic athletes to protest the law while in the Olympic spotlight.'
Hoo-boy, are they in for a surprise!
Maybe they want a date with whatever is in the picture.
They'll probably have the opportunity, since they'll all be in a Russian jail.

Dr. Information

Why does everyone have to condemn something? Why the pressure. Oh I know why, the liberals and intolerant will not stop until they get their way. The picture above says it all.

Dr. Information

Most of the lbgt community are simply intolerant and they prove so each and every single day. Instead of worrying about their lives and themselves, they have to push their beliefs on everyone and condemn those who do not agree with them, OH, and spread hate.

Jmschmidt812

How well do you know most of the LGBT community to make that generalization? Their beliefs? And what would you know of their " beliefs " as you put it? All these people are pushing for are the same rights you enjoy everyday. How is that wrong in modern society? People cannot keep quiet and let others deprive them of the rights everyone else enjoys.

gilamonster

The libtards should practice what they preach, some of the most intolerant people I have ever met. If I don’t agree with the homosexual lifestyle that’s called an opinion, call me a bigot; who cares.

You can put your science in a sack, for every “hypothesis” you produce I can produce one to counterattack it.

Here we go with the Christian bashing. Say how are your friends the Muslims treating homosexuals in Europe right now? They are instilling fear in some pretty liberal areas. No large press coverage when Abdullah Quick was speaking at Kings College and said homosexuals should be executed? No coverage of Muslims beating people at fashion shows and outside homosexual clubs? That’s odd, had a Christian said that it would be headline news.

So Russia and Putin is the rights new hero? That’s funny; you need to scrape the rice and bong residue off your el Che shirt and light another luminary under your Obama icons.

The Big Dog's back

We know you right wingnuts hate science.

thinkagain's picture
thinkagain

Very well said!

gilamonster

Can you utter a phrase without the word right wing nut? Seems that is somewhat of a challenge for you

There you go being open- minded, so only YOUR scientists are “certifiable” Lol. So science and engineering have never been wrong….hahahhah,,,,

The Big Dog's back

Can you utter a phrase without saying libtard?

Nemesis

Can you without saying wingnut?

Train

Nice comment gila. For that matter look at the Jewish faith and their belief's pertaining to homosexuality. No SR coverage on Muslim's or Jew's. Just those dang Christians and ladydye's favorite; Catholic's.

44846GWP

Lots of mouth breathers and bigots around here.

JMOP's picture
JMOP

Someone needs to tell the "Hit Me Baby One More Time" princess in that photo, that ladies don't behave in that manner.

Nemesis

"That's no lady; that's my wife" - Rodney Dangerfield

be for real

the homos and lesbos get what they deserve.They keep drawing negetive attention to themselves.I go with the christian point of view also.They have their opinion and it's ok, but when we voice ours it is hatred.You people are messed up in the head.Some of you out there who profess to be christians are messed up also,christians dont cuss,dont drink,don't hate other people.Just because you go to church don't make you a christian no more than going to a game makes you a player.These people will get theirs soon enough,whether you believe or not God is in control

The Big Dog's back

Now go to church. May God bless you.

paws4thought

I think the individual pictured is disgusting; to me, if a group wants respect, they need to act in a respectful manner.